ARLINGTON, Mass. When President Wilford Woodruff asked Cyrus E. Dallin in the early 1890s to sculpt an angel statue to be placed atop the central spire of the Salt Lake Temple then nearing completion Mr. Dallin demurred. A sculptor of a more spiritual nature should be chosen to create the angel, he said, speaking slowly and earnestly, according to an October 1953 article in the Instructor.
Impressed with Mr. Dallin's talents and high moral character, President Woodruff asked that he reconsider the matter while journeying to see his mother in Springville, Utah, and to seek her advice.
Trained in Boston and Paris, Mr. Dallin had proven himself a capable sculptor of international renown. But when it came to modeling the spiritual significance of an angel flying "in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach," he felt troubled.
"What should I do?" he asked his mother. "Do you sincerely think that I am spiritually qualified to do this angel statue?"
His mother was a soft-spoken, noble woman who endured the hardships of the frontier by appealing to heaven for guidance.
"Cyrus, I am convinced absolutely sure that you should make the angel statue," she said according to the article.
Early on the afternoon of April 6, 1892, only several hours after the capstone of the Salt Lake Temple had been laid on the central spire, a 12-foot 8-inch Angel Moroni statue sculpted by Mr. Dallin was placed on the capstone.
Before his death in 1944, Mr. Dallin gained renown for sculptures of legendary patriots and Native Americans. His monuments are testaments of national heritage. His famous works include the Paul Revere monument on display near the famed Old North Church in Boston; the memorable Appeal to the Great Spirit; and the Massasoit, friend to the Pilgrims that stands on Copes Hill near Plymouth, Mass.
In the Church, his contributions include the Brigham Young monument that now presides over the plaza near the Salt Lake Temple, and the Angle Moroni statue.
"One beautiful summer morning a few years ago," wrote Elder Levi Edgar Young of the Seventy in an April 1953 Improvement Era article, "I was seated with Mr. Dallin on the stone curbing which surrounds the Sea Gull Monument on Temple Square. . . .
"Our conversation drifted to his bronze statue of the American Indian which is called The Appeal to the Great Spirit. The American Indian is seated on his pony, with arms outstretched and his face lifted appealing to heaven," Elder Young continued.
"I asked him if he had ever done anything that equaled his Appeal to the Great Spirit?
" 'Yes,' " he said, " 'I considered that my Angel Moroni brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels from heaven.'
"We both sat quietly for some minutes without saying a word, when he added: 'We can only create in life what we are and what we think.' "
Cyrus Dallin was born Nov. 22, 1861, in Springville, Utah. His grandfather, Tobias Dallin, and his father, Thomas, were sailmakers from England who joined the Church in 1849. Mr. Dallin's father, Thomas, met his mother, Jane Hamer, also a member of the Church, while crossing the plains on their way to Utah with other pioneers.
During his youth, when Cyrus was about 8 years old, the Dallins found it difficult to conform to gospel teachings and changed denominations. As he grew, the young Dallin's talents were soon recognized and influential men in the community raised money to pay for his training in Boston.
During the course of his life, Mr. Dallin lived mainly in Arlington, a suburb northwest of Boston, where he purchased a home. For his accomplishments, he was unofficially adopted as a son of the city. More recently, a museum in his honor, The Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum, was opened near the Arlington town square. The museum looks onto the famed route of Paul Revere's midnight ride. Replicas of some of Dallin's major creations are displayed in the museum, including a new display depicting the Angel Moroni statue.
Future plans call for the creation of a full-size angel statue to be on prominent display near the town square next spring.
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